Explorer Journeys: Lana Kiddie-Vai

Inspiring Explorers Expedition: Antarctic Peninsula 2019

South Auckland student Lana Kiddie-Vai pushed herself beyond her doubts and fears to make the most of every opportunity on the 2019 Inspiring Explorers™ Expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.

A four-hour flight was the longest trip Lana Kiddie-Vai had taken before she nervously embarked on the 30-hour journey to the Antarctic Peninsula. The opportunity, however, to explore in the coldest place on earth and get close to its extraordinary wildlife, made the journey, and the seasickness Lana suffered while crossing the notorious Drake Passage, well worth it.

Lana was in the first group of students from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate to participate in the Inspiring Explorers™ Expedition programme. At the time, she was in Year 13 and had a keen interest in science.

Going to such a foreign environment brought up a huge mix of emotions for Lana, from elation and amazement at the incredible sights she was seeing, to overcoming her fears of the unknown. One of the biggest challenges she faced also proved to be her biggest highlight. “I didn’t think I would be able to kayak by myself because I tipped my kayak a lot when we were practising before we left. When I first went kayaking on the expedition, I thought, ‘What am I doing?’, but once I got in the water, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually ok’.”

She says “everything” about the expedition was a highlight, from seeing a shooting star zip across the night sky during the overnight camping experience on the Ice, to getting close to whales and penguins and other amazing wildlife, and kayaking past vast, creaking icebergs.

As one of the younger members of the expedition, Lana was grateful for the support of older mentors, such as fellow expedition member, Georgina Archibald, who kept her spirits buoyed and helped her to meet any challenges. Georgina continued to mentor Lana for some months after the expedition, giving her lots of advice around applying for tertiary education and scholarships. Lana then started an Engineering degree at the University of Auckland, and was awarded a Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori Scholarship to go towards her first year of study.

Lana says the expedition broadened her horizons and made her want to travel the world. She has enjoyed inspiring the spirit of exploration in other young people in her community.

“I did something I was scared to do, but discovered there was nothing to be afraid of. A lot of people where I live don’t really like to explore or might be scared of doing that. Because I am one of them and did an expedition like this, I can say to them, ‘it’s ok, you’ll be fine, you can do it.’”